Leading Article: Passport to big savings for taxpayer

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The Independent Online
HERE'S a question of the "why do we never see baby pigeons?" variety. Why, at airports, do Home Office staff check your passport as you leave the country? What have immigration staff to do with emigration? Clearly you need a passport to get back in but what is the point of a fleeting inspection on the way out? Besides, the checks that are made are cursory and inconsistent. You do not have to show a passport to step on Eurostar. On the Channel ferries, passport control - if it exists - takes the form of shoving what looks like a travel document in front of the person who collects the tickets. The whole abortive exercise costs pounds 3m a year and even the security and intelligence services acknowledge that the system of outward passport control produces no data that cannot be got more effectively elsewhere.

Most of the above has applied for years. Under the Tories great play was made about sweeps and trawls through the government machine, efficiency reviews and so on. Yet the system survived. Till now. Labour seems to have seen the light. Jack Straw's Home Office has just announced it is abolishing outward-bound passport control. It is a welcome saving. But how many more redundancies and anachronisms are waiting to be discovered and removed, to the public benefit and the relief of taxpayers?

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